A 40-pound Detective

Noah’s Rainy Day (NetGalley)
Sandra Brannan
release date: Sept. 3, 2013

Although normally being called a vegetable or broken might hurt my feelings, for the first time in my life, I was relieved that someone thought of me that way. I knew that if the scaredy-cat neighbor believed I couldn’t think or speak -being nothing more than a vegetable–the little boy would stay safer somehow. I sensed this … I went into spy mode and pretended to be a vegetable, since invisibility was out of the question.

Noah opens his story with, “The good news is I think I broke my leg. The bad news is I don’t know if anyone at school would ever believe how it happened. Or worse, I’m not sure it anyone will ever figure out how I got here.” The boy is obviously in some pretty steep trouble, but backs up his story to tell us a little about himself: he’s a 40 pound 12-year-old with cerebral palsy who can’t speak and is blind in one eye. He spends his days in his wheelchair or on the floor–missing nothing that goes on around him. His younger sister Emma is one of the few people who communicates overtly with him, using the “five finger method” where each digit and each knuckle represents a letter. She tracks his eyes and “reads” his spelling. The rest of the

family relies on intuition to “talk” to him.

One of his favorite people is Aunt Liv Bergen, special agent with the FBI. And her arrival on Christmas Eve to celebrate with Noah’s family makes the holiday that much more special. Until, that is, she’s abruptly called away as on an assignment: five-year-old Maximilian Bennett Williams III, son of a multi-millionaire and supermodel has disappeared from Denver International Airport. Liv’s investigation lasts long into the night and she misses Christmas morning. Still hoping for her return before Christmas dinner, Noah and Emma play in the snow and meet a chatty little boy who’s visiting “Papa”, Noah’s creepy next door neighbor who live alone, rarely goes out, and never has company. Hmmmmm …

Liv works the airport with her tracking dog Beulah; we meet a whole cast of agents, officers … and a possible love interest or two. Brannan keeps the story moving quickly as the FBI and local police try to piece together any clues that might lead them to recover little Max. Alternating narrators between Noah and Liv, Brannan lets us solve the crime as they do. And then she lets little Max narrate a chapter, and next Noah’s creepy neighbor Jason Fletcher. And then Noah disappears, too.

I’m not one for detective novels (except for my much-loved Flavia DeLuce!), but this one kept me swiping my Kindle pages quickly. Although this is the fourth Liv Bergen novel in a series, I wasn’t lost jumping in. The characters were engaging, the plot was fast-paced–you add a tracking dog and a kid who’s one smart cookie, and you’ve got Noah’s Rainy Day. 

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